Local districts respond to Whitehall “sexting” case

B y Jaime Thomas

The Whitehall School District recently dealt with a very public incident of “sexting” within the system.

Dozens of students were found to have been sending and sharing inappropriate photos of under-aged girls in the district after a police investigation into the matter. To combat the issue the school held two forums on Tuesday for both parents and students.

The issue raised the question as to whether “sexting” is happening in nearby schools as well.

In Hartford, District Superintendent Andrew Cook said nothing has recently been brought to officials’ attention about the issue. However, he did say there were two minor instances in the school in the 2007-2008 year.

“A girl had taken pictures and sent them to a boyfriend or a friend. We were able to stop it before it went further,” he said. In response, he said the district invited law enforcement and other relevant agencies to conduct assemblies at the school in order to raise awareness for students.

In Granville, High School Principal Camille Harrelson said the district has taken the same preventative approach.

On the school’s last early-release day Dec. 10, two officers from the New York State Department of Criminal Investigations gave presentations for students in grades six to 12. Harrelson said the incentive to host the men came from students’ complaints about such issues as cyber bullying.

“It’s a very important topic. It impacts the kids here at school,” she said. The criminal investigators talked about Facebook, online gaming, cyber bullying, sending sexual text messages and more.

“It was pretty eye opening for the kids and staff,” Harrelson said. Students learned, for example, that sharing an inappropriate picture can be considered child porn, and though they might break up from a relationship, a picture can float around for years after.

“These kids really need to know the impact of what they’re doing—that it stays with them for life, and there’s the law aspect,” Harrelson said. “If they do stuff like that there are repercussions.”

 

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